Bea Johnson lives waste-free with her family since 2008 and is the author of the bestseller Zero Waste Home (Zéro Déchet en francais)
"Since embarking on the Zero Waste lifestyle, our lives have changed for the better: We feel happier and lead more meaningful lives, based on experiences instead of stuff. My goal is to share its incredible health, financial and time saving benefits!"

A simple, easy to carry wardrobe.


Summer is here, and we have made our annual trip to France to visit my family, celebrate my younger brother's wedding and older brother's 40th birthday. We will be here for a couple of months.

This year's flight was a bit difficult: Although we came more prepared than last year (read about last year's travel experience here), our personal headphones did not work in Air France's two-prong connection and the flight attendant gave us a hard time for using our Klean Kanteen for drinks served in plastic cups. At the meat counter, "I don't have a trash can" is the easiest and quickest explanation to the jar I hand out. But on a plane, where the situation is not set for conversation (people waiting to be served, reaching over someone's head, and engine noise), interactions need to be cut short. When the flight attendant asked if I was afraid of the "parabens" in plastic cups - he probably meant BPA ;), I smiled and simply nodded.

Apart from the handful of winter pieces noted below *, I packed my whole wardrobe into one small carry-on, with room to spare, for our summer stay. Since I wrote the post "Zero Waste Closet", I have reduced and come closer to finding the exact amount and type of cross-seasonal pieces that work for me, the places I live/visit, and the activities I partake. I can mix & match (my base color being black), layer them, dress them up or down with different shoes, add leggings to dresses, roll up long sleeves for the warm weather, wear a long shirt as a dress, turn a loose skirt into a tube top with a belt, etc... I can let my creativity go wild ;) re: last post.

Since we started the decluttering theme, many of you have asked to go into detail about my wardrobe, so here is more insight.
  • Seven Tops: Four basics, three "fashion". In order: Black long sleeve scoop neck, black 3/4 sleeve boat-neck, black spaghetti tank, black loose tank, hot pink loose tank, grey sparkly tank, ruffle long one shoulder. Tip: Find shirts that are long enough, so they can also serve as mini-dresses in the summer.
  • Three Sweaters: *Hooded sweater (heavy weight), black V-neck (medium weight), striped boat neck (thin weight). Tip: Buy good quality that does not fuzz up.
  • Three Dresses: Black sheath, denim shirt dress, colorful dress. Tip: Dresses for a simple wardrobe are made of a material that is cross-seasonal; for example, tweed does not apply.
  • Occasional Dress: Green Awards/dress for my brother's wedding (I am now ready to donate, sell or redesign this one). Tip: Buy an occasional (once every five years) dress used, and donate it back to the thrift store after the event.
  • Six Bottoms: Jeans, trousers, black leggings, fitted skirt, loose skirt, shorts. Tip: Stay away from khakis/khaki color, which do not work well with winter pieces.
  • Intimates: Seven undies, matching convertible bra, two pairs of medium socks, *two pairs of thick socks, footless tights, PJ's, and a swimsuit. Tip: Find the perfect bra first, match undies second. PJ's should be light enough for summer, warm enough for winter, and be decent enough to wear overnight at someone's house.
  • Six Shoes: High heels, boots, medium heels, jazz flats, sandals, *slippers. Tip: Match the color with your purse(s).
  • One All-Purpose Purse: I used to have three purses, but found this one used on my last shopping spree... my computer fits in it, and it has a removable strap to turn it from messenger into clutch for occasions. It is black to match my shoes. Tip: Make a list of items to fit in the "new" purse, take your computer to the store if necessary.
  • Five Toppers: The family blazer (Max, Leo and I have all shared it), black cardigan, *leather jacket, *sporty waterproof jacket, and a *cozzy. Tip: Go for texture and don't be afraid of color, if your purse matches your shoes.
  • Accessories: *Winter hat, summer hat, belt, jewelry (wedding ring, belly piercing, fashion piece), All purpose cover-up, sunglasses, and *gloves. Tip: Stick with a hardware/metal color that fits your complexion (gold/silver), and find accessories that carry your base color and have dual function, such as a necklace that can serve as a belt.
Obviously if you work in construction in Alaska, your needs will differ from mine. The key is evaluating what your everyday needs are while incorporating cross-seasonal/activities essentials into your wardrobe as much as possible.

What is your key to a simple wardrobe?


  1. This is SUCH a helpful post - thank you Bea. It seemed from your previous post that you were reluctant to go into such detail, so I really appreciate you sharing more.

    I tend to agree with your 'simple wardrobe' ideas. I have basics in neutral colours - I look better in charcoal and navy than black and most of my tops are in white.

    I tend to go for layering pieces (vest, t-shirt, long-sleeve top, light cashmere) so that it sees me through all the year and hardly ever buy 'fashion' items; I stick to the classics.

    My other 'rule' is that I never buy anything if it's just "ok" to look at when on - it has to make me feel sensational before I purchase - then I try and adopt a 'one in, one out' rule to avoid clutter...Also, I don't buy cheap stuff - I work out cost per wear and ensure my items work for me.

    If I want something a bit more spontaneous, I use a thrift store; then I don't feel so guilty LOL!

  2. Love this post!
    My simple wardrobe consists of about 6 long sleeve black t-shirts and a pair of black pants and a pair of grey pants. I look like I'm wearing the same outfit all winter long... but I promise I'm really changing clothes :)

    My summer wardrobe isn't as 'neat': I have tank tops of various colors, a few skirts that I sewed, a pair of shorts and a pair of capris... I'm working on getting that down, but I'll use the clothing until it's worn out :)

  3. Anonymous6/24/2011

    This article is awesome! The only thing that would make it better would be more pictures (pretty please?)

  4. I have such a hard time culling my wardrobe! I left the out-of-home workforce about 18 months ago... but know I'll likely go back at some point, so it has been hard to let go of a lot of my office-only attire. Being unemployed, I haven't bought many (maybe any?) new clothes in this time, but I am the grateful recipient of friends' cast-offs (I call them hand-me-ups).

    As a triathlete, I have (and need) a fair amount of workout gear for the three sports and I won't wash clothes without a full load. I workout 6 days/week (usually two workouts a day) and only do laundry 1x/week...

    What I need is a personal shopper -- someone to help me pare down my closet and then shop for the essentials you mention. And then I'll need a stiff drink to make it all happen. :-)

  5. Since I just begun decluttering, the key to simplifying my wardrobe has been to dontate anything that either doesn't fit or clothing items I haven't worn in more than two years. I've kept most of those things out of guilt for those "just in case" moments that never really come. In the midst of my decluttering stage I realized I had items that I've kept for over 6 years just because they looked pretty, or maybe I'd need it for something, or it cost me money so I can't just "get rid of it". However, following this blog has helped me realize "less" is more. Donating has filled me with happiness I can't explain, and has helped clear out my life and mind.

    Thank you Bea for sharing this with all of us!

  6. Wow! I am duly impressed! I'm not a fashion hound by any stretch of the imagination, but I still struggle with keeping the clothes down to a manageable level. I recently hauled about half a dozen huge boxes to the thrift store, but I still have many, Many, MANY times the amount that you do.

    I'm thinking that people who live in places where there aren't huge temperature swings have an advantage in this department. Here in Colorado it can be 20 degrees below zero in the winter and over 100 in the summer, and since we keep both the heat and a/c to a minimum, our indoor temperature probably has a 10-15 degree change from summer to winter, so the idea of wearing the same clothes in all seasons seems... well, unbearable.

    Plus... what do you do about clothes for specific activities? I find that I need gardening/work clothes for all seasons, dress clothes for all seasons, casual clothes for all seasons, professional clothes for all seasons, athletic clothes for all seasons etc. And one set won't do it either because I live alone and with my new HUGE washer, it takes 3-4 weeks to dirty enough stuff (linens, towels, clothes & all) for a load.

    OK... I'm whining. I'm making excuses. I know it. Deep breath. One step at a time. Keep only what you use.

    Thank you for providing inspiration even if it does seem somewhat unattainable.

  7. My husband and I share the "coat closet" that exists in our Victorian cottage. And I used to work for MaxMara and Calypso and adore fashion. Completely! I keep the one in one out rule, and these days call for more of a business look in the day however I don't wear suits but rather devoted the genius of the jersey dress (bless you Diane Von Furstenburg for being the pioneer!) these take up no space, rarely require (hand) washing, totally durable - even a cheap one will last many years, don't wrinkle and are totally cross seasonal (add tights, boots, and blazer or cardigan, and voila ready for winter). Additionally these clothes are easy to buy off the rack - I can roll them up and they go straight into my handbag at checkout.

    My only regret is the synthetic; that is the one place in my home where petroleum products (spandex, lurex, polyester, etc) meet my "hierarchy of

  8. As a college student, I try to walk the fine line between not having to do laundry every week and having a manageable wardrobe. One thing I have found is the more underwear the better. Which is why I am impressed/baffled by 7pairs!

    I am wondering how the washing schedule in your house Bee. How do you divy up laundry machine time with the rest of your family? I presume you combine people's laundry, but do you have a special laundry day every week or is it a load here and a load there through out the week?

  9. Anonymous6/24/2011

    I used buy cloths alot, then one day my mom said let's go though you closet. Half the stuff in there in did not fit and and 20% of the another stuff I just not wear at all. Now at the begging of each new season I look in my closet what I will wear I will keep what does fit I give it away. Then I go over what I want to keep if its something I wore at least 3 times I keep it if not I give it away. I still have lot cloths and have not gone my clothes for summer season yet and I know there some clothes that ready to go

  10. Is this wardrobe list what you have at home? I am curious what you brought on vacation that all fit in a small carry on. I find it a challenge to just get my blow dryer, 2 shoes and clothes in a small carry on for a week!

  11. Anonymous6/24/2011

    People still match their purse to their shoes? Forget that "rule." I work in fashion but once I'm out of it, I'll definitely cut down on my wardrobe.
    Also, only one bra?? I switch between 3 because I've heard you should let your bra "rest" otherwise they won't last as long and lose their elasticity.

  12. Natalie6/24/2011

    What surprises me is the diversity of your clothes. It looks like you like to wear different styles. I don't. Although I have much more clothes as you do, I don't own some of the things you listed like: high and medium heels shoes, dresses, leggings. But I do own a pair of running shoes, a pair of hiking boots, and I could not part with my yoga pants. I am not a triathlete but I exercise daily, at least one hour, and I only wash my yoga pants once a week, so I don't need to own 7 of these.

  13. Kiyomi6/24/2011

    Bea, thank you, thank you, and thank you for posting this. I am one of those who has been waiting for the details! ...and as someone said, pictures of mix 'n matches would be wonderful, but I am afraid that might be asking too much :0

    After I started to follow this blog, I donated 20+ clothes to a charity, and I inventoried the rest... My inventory still shows a staggering 100 items!! (excluding intimates and sport wears.) What makes this worse is the fact I live in Hawaii. We have one tropical season!! (I still have to hang on to a few winter items as I have families in northern Japan and Colorado.) I don't know how many purses I have and I have about 12 pairs of shoes. I stare and stare at these items in my closet but I just cannot let go of any... This is becoming to be a bit of a stress to be honest.

    Don't you get tired of wearing the same clothes often? Sometimes I feel like I am just putting on a uniform. I am not creative enough, I suppose...

    Anyway, I am taking a step in the right direction. I just know it will be a long road. I do aspire to get closer to your simplicity.
    Thank you for sharing your personal details. Please know that many of us do really appreciate your doing so, because it proves that it is not just a theory.

    btw, what did you add this year and what did you let go to make room for your new finds???

  14. I absolutely love denim and I swear by it. It is a fabric which just gets better and better with use. I tend to wear my jeans for 8-10 years until they are rags......! I have 6 pairs of jeans, 4 denim skirts and 2 denim dresses as the cornerstone of my wardrobe which can be dressed up or down and work in summer and winter. I have a sort of mom uniform-I always have something denim on! My dark jeans look smart for work and the really old ones are great for the school run and home. My husband has a uniform too-6 pairs of jeans and 6 black polo style T-shirts. In winter we all add polar fleece tops to our outfits to keep warm-polar fleece is cheap, superwarm, dries quickly on wet days (we don't have a dryer) and is made from recycled plastic. My daughters have their own children uniforms-jeans, a denim skirt which can be worn in summer or winter, 4 short sleeve Tshirts, 4 long sleeve T shirts and polar fleece tops whioh zip up in winter.

  15. Vanessa6/25/2011

    Hooray! I love the wardrobe posts. Do you turn over a third or so of your wardrobe each buying spree? I'm looking at your last list and trying to work out what's changed...

    Sadly, my wardrobe has blown out a bit from its formerly minimal state - because I myself have blown out a bit. I've gone up a dress size and been forced to buy a few extra things. Such a waste, as I'm hoping to the lose the weight again stat and the new things will then be donation-fodder. :(

  16. Pockets. If I have pockets I don't need a purse. Haven't carried one since my 13 year old was in diapers. And that was for her 'stuff.'

  17. Andrea6/25/2011

    THANK YOU, Bea, for posting your wardrobe details! I am with Kiyomi and still have around 100 items. I don't live in one season though; I live in Montana. I have trans-seasonal clothes that I layer, but below zero to 103 just can't take the same clothing in all situations. I work in an casual professional office setting, but also camp, hike in the mountains, pick huckleberries, ski, kayak, whitewater raft, and snowshoe-all of those activities demand appropriate clothing.

    I have donated a lot of clothes though and gone from two dressers to one small one and halved my hanging clothes. Thank you for the inspiration and details!

  18. What a great post! We have gotten rid of over thirty medium to medium large sizes boxes of "stuff" -- many boxes were full of clothing and I have more to sort through. It is amazing how freeing all this is. I still have a long way to go but things are looking good. Thank you!

  19. Pamela6/25/2011

    Thanks for the great post! I had been so curious about your wardrobe. I have definitely narrowed mine down, but not nearly to your level. I have made a committment to only have as many clothes as will comfortably fit in my half of the closet (not a walk-in).

    I'm a big fan of skirts, and try to keep them trans-seasonal, as you suggested. I also like to pair them with a light-weight cardigan. In the fall and spring, I can layer a summer tank top underneath, and during the winter I put a long-sleeve t-shrit underneath. We have some serious winter weather here, so I also have a couple of warmer winter sweaters as well.

    Now I need to work on my kids clothes!

  20. Anonymous6/25/2011

    The way you put it sounded like you have 1 bra and 7 undies, but from what I know about French women, they always wear matching sets. So did you mean you have 7 bras in different colors with 7 matching undies? If so, that is so chic and would make wearing tons of black rather fun.

  21. Anonymous6/25/2011

    For inspiration on how to wear my "limited" wardrobe I have one of my sons or my husband take a photo of me when I am pleased with an outfit. I always have them take the photo from the neck down, standing in front of a white wall. That way when I'm flipping through the photos on my iphone the outfit photos are easy to spot. I used to sit in front of my closet wondering, "What did I wear that top with?" Now I just flip through my phone when I can't think of something to wear. After a year or so I've created quite a variety of ideas. When I've gotten rid of a piece of clothing of course the photos get deleted as well.

  22. Jenny Combs6/25/2011

    I love the simplified wardrobe! I wish I could live it right now... but I just recently gave birth to a new baby and she is a world-champion spitter. So this means that I am saturated with spit-up so often that I go through four shirts a day. Often my pants are included in the drenching- so I am wearing lounge pants around the house and reserving my jeans and slacks for when I go out.
    Even with all this, I do still keep a limited (at least to me) wardrobe of 8 shirts, two jeans, a pair of slacks, four lounge-pants, and then 4 blouses, five skirts, and one three dresses. But usually, they are almost all in the laundry ;)
    I look foward to her getting older, the spit-up decreasing so I can simplify even more!

  23. I have a question for people who wear skirts in the winter. I'm just wondering how you pull it off without freezing to death. Do you wear them with matching leggings or something? And what do you do about shoes. Do you have special dress boots? Or do you live lives that allow you not to have to walk in the snow? I just can never figure that one out.

  24. Anonymous6/25/2011

    Love the site and get so many ideas from it. I found that when I was younger, I had much fewer clothes than I do now. Mostly, I wore dresses and had only a few pairs of jeans or pants. Now, that I'm older, I find that I have many more clothes and really love all of them. That is my problem. I really hate to part with them but I know I have more than I need. I am trying to cut down but it has been hard. Thanks again, Bea, for sharing.

  25. Hey, EcoCatLady- I wear leggings or tights and boots in the winter. I have a pair of high suede boots (w/ wedge rubber sole) that are lined and some cowboy boots. Both have held up okay in a pretty good amount of snow.

  26. Anonymous6/25/2011

    I am a resident of Singapore. Even though this country is known for its clean and green looks, and wealthy millionaires, it lags behind many developed and developing countries when it comes to zero-waste life style. Most people don't cook food at home and eat outside. many of them pack their food in disposable lunch boxes and cups (the infamous McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, etc. a only abetting this coptlifestyle) and we can find these trashed everywhere around this island state. They use tissue paper to wipe off sweat and water, not handkerchiefs. Added to that most of the people here are non-vegetarians and it is very difficult for pure vegetarians to find an eating place in the heartlands. One should note that humans are by nature designed to be vegetarians and practising vegetarianism itself could reduce the burden on the environment to a large extent.

    In my home country, India, even today vegetaruian food is served in banana leaves during wedding and other ceremonies even iurban areas. Such food is also more tasty than eating from paper or plastic plates. It is also easier to bundle banana leaves together as compared to plastic or paper plates. These practices, which are in vogue from the Vedic periods mst not only be continued, but other countries should try to follow them instead of propagating their environmentally destructive culture.

  27. Great post! I've been working on minimizing my wardrobe over the last year, but I find it hard particularly because I have to "dress up" for work. The biggest problem I've found, though, is that since I'm essentially wearing my entire wardrobe each week, and washing it all once a week, is that things wear out fast!

  28. Anonymous6/26/2011

    Great post! Concrete, usable info. Thanks, Bea!
    Just some observations:
    I like and use black as my basic color, too, but one issue is as clothes get older, they tend to fade. This is really obvious with black! I detest fabric dyes, but barring dying clothes you're ultimately gonna have a faded wardrobe. Certainly an issue when buying second hand
    Denim is great as it gets better with age, however, production of denim can be a bit eco-challenging. That's of course where second hand stores become valuable! I always see tons of denim at GoodWill.
    White is easier to maintain long term but difficult to re-wear without washing....
    My "go to" shirts are long sleeved blue chambray. They wear well, match anything, typically super comfortable, Button up or wear with tank, sleeves down/up. Definitely on the casual side, though. Highly recommend.

  29. My "go to" items are several short sleeved, v-neck t-shirts.... I wear them all year around. In chillier weather, I stop them off with a blue chambray shirt, add a little scarf or pin. For bottoms, it's usually chinos in navy, black or khaki. I can get away with tennis shoes for work... and that's the standard. Occasionally, I add a hoodie. But's it's true what they say, you wear about 20% of your closet 80% of the time. I don't have a lot of clothes although more than Bea does. I shop in my closet and pull out a blouse that isn't the norm that I usually wear.. and wear that for something different.

  30. This finally got me to cut down my wardrobe. I've been meaning too for a while but felt overwhelmed. Your list was inspiring because I could see all the different creations you could make from such a small set of things. Then I realized I could do the same with my clothes too! I still feel like I have a ways to go, but from a literal bed full, I'm down to one basket.

    16 shirts, 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of shorts, 2 dresses, 2 skirts, 5 cardigans, 2 night gowns, 1 pj set (for colder weather), 2 bras, 1 swimsuit, 1 swimsuit coverup, 2 sets of workout clothes and underwear (didn't count them, but didn't get rid of any that were in good condition since I'll use them). Still have to go through socks. The other 6 boxes of clothes are being donated.

    I'm hoping that as I wear this pile of clothes, I'll realize even more that I don't need, and can donate more and get the pile down even further. We do travel to colder climates quite often though to visit family, so I don't know if I'll ever get it down to just 7 shirts.

  31. I am moving to Costa Rica at the end of August and you've just inspired me to pare down my wardrobe so that it only fits into one piece of carry-on luggage. After all, I went with only that much when we stayed there for a month last year. Does one really need more than what you would need for a month? And luckily we're saying goodbye to winter gear. Thanks for being such an inspiration!

  32. Bonjour,
    Posteriez-vous des photos de votre garde-robe ? ... il y a plein de bonnes idées dans cet article :)
    - Pour ma part, j'essaie d'avoir une base de vêtements neutres : pantalons, chaussures, sacs, manteau... je me permets de la fantaisie plutôt sur les robes d'été. qui n'ont besoin d'être assorties à rien !
    - J'utilise certains vêtements d'été (pantalons légers, djellaba...) comme pyjama en hiver ^^

  33. Black pants are the mainstay of my carry on for a month s trip. I also love Target s tissue tees and my purse is Eddie Bauer wallet type with a strap; I had one for 12 years and have just got a new one. If I go to Europe in the winter I take one pair of shoes (Ecco) and wear them so I have no shoes in my suitcase. Thin, thin socks. As much jewellery as I like as it takes up no space. No hairdryer - hotels all have them and so do family and friends. Summer I take two pairs of shoes including what I am wearing cargo pants, three tops, one dress and one pair of thin pjs, two bras (wear one) and six undies.
    When I see people struggling with all their luggage my heart sinks.
    I dont take any toiletries - just a lipstick in my purse and a toothbrush. You can find soap where ever you go and that is all you really need.
    I lay everything out on the bed and then severely edit.

  34. Droolcup6/27/2011

    This post rocks! What settled the issue for me was finally getting to a weight I could live at with clothes in a single size. I live in jeans and have three pair and a pattern made from them so I can sew my own as they have, of course, been discontinued. Lots of hand me down clothes cycle through so I have a nice black jacket for funerals and a beige suede. My colors tend to be black, white and navy. I like looking at other colors but prefer to be monochrome myself and have the clothes frame the face. I have focused on different color schemes at different points in life but now it's mostly black/white or beige/navy.

    When I was working, I made black rayon pants and wore either tees or turtlenecks, as the season demanded, and made two or three big shirts as overshirts/jackets, which I jazzed up with a small collection of brooches. My 'Uniform.'

    I'm hard to fit so shoes are a problem: If I find something that works, I will often buy two pair. I have two bathing suits I use for exercise at home every day then wash out and hang up.

    I keep paring down my wardrobe, happily, and experimenting with sewing. If I don't like the way something turns out, it gets gifted or donated. When I find what works for me (turtleneck pattern has been lengthened to dress on occasion; pull-on pants and jeans type patterns have been derived from purchases that have fit; sports bras and string bikini undies work; I snag tee shirts with tiny cap sleeves when I can find them), I stick with it. Have fleece pullovers as hand-me-ups from my girls who are now taller than I, and purses/bags are either the same or something I've sewn. I find I need a tote for electronics or a fanny pack and have one 'dress' purse. All travel is done with a nylon bag I purchased in 1982. [I shocked some friends overseas by arriving with everything in my bag, wearing my fanny pack and carrying my (homemade) laptop case with all peripherals and camera.] I have one short Japanese kimono in black (a gift) with beautiful inside lining that I use for 'good,' and one skirt for funerals.

    Living in Northern California I only need to layer and not have lots of different wardrobes. As I am hard to fit in almost every category, I don't have much luck at thrift stores. I am blessed to have grown daughters who share, as my mother and a friend did. That's another good way to do things: pool and share.

  35. This is a great post. Thanks! Due to health issues, weight gain and loss, I've had to have a very flexible wardrobe for the last couple years. Right now, I stick to what I call my uniform: tights, black skirt and various (5-6) tops. I have two black skirts that I wear out, and one pair of jeans that use for gardening. I also wear a scarf every day, so I look a little different. I don't think anyone notices that I wear the same thing every day. I love not having to think about what to wear.

    I tend to wear pieces a couple times before I wash them, just air them out in between wearings. If you keep a clean body and aren't messy, your clothes won't get dirty. I live in a temperate climate, so I don't need seasonal clothes, and the culture of the city I live in and my profession is very casual, so no need to show off.

    I do need some protective clothing (pants, jacket, boots, gloves, etc.) for riding my motorcycle, but I don't really count that as part of my wardrobe.

  36. Anonymous6/27/2011

    Hi Bea!

    Great post as usual -lots to think about! It's been over a month since I was linked to your blog and what a trove of information! So much great stuff between your info and the comments.
    I have a family of 6 and we regularly put out 1 grocery bag of garbage a week plus the odd large item. I thought that was good but this has challenged me to do so much more. We are in southern Ontario and are fortunate to be able to recycle #1-7, cardboard and all types of paper. We also have a metal recycling place to drop off at nearby. We travel yearly up north though and end up bringing most of our garbage home to recycle as they have very little options. Again, you have challenged us to reduce that load even more. I loved the post about the bumpy road. I think I am on step 3 where I am frustrated to learn about all the more things I could be doing. It helps though to see and hear from everyone else's journey.

    As someone who scrapbooks because of a very poor memory, (and I love looking at the photos of the past) I continue to struggle with the art debate. I'm moving toward more digital expression but you've definitly given us some things to consider.

    I have now read through all of your posts and I still have a few questions if possible:

    I didn't see how you clean your toilets? I'm sure you've found a way around the typical plastic brushes...
    Do you have any recommendations for gloves for dishwashing? My hands get so dry, especially during our snowy, winter months that I can't go without, but I get holes so quickly it's frustrating.
    I was finally able to see one of your videos. Would you consider adding a link on the sidebar where we can view all of your media exposure? I'd love to read the articles and see the videos but some of the links didn't work.
    I'd love to read a post about ideas for gift-giving and hear other people's ideas. We try to do a lot of gift cards and experiences as well but I'd love to hear more ideas on giving gifts of cash creativiely (we have a few of the Fly Lady affiliate's Everybody Loves Money (ELM) ideas). I coordinate the bridal and baby showers at our church and would love to give more personal gifts that won't end up as clutter or trash.
    Also, is there a way to have future comments delivered to our mailboxes? I've read other blogs that allow for that and the disucssion you have generated is so encouraging but I know others like me start at the beginning of your journey.

    And finally, I came across a very interesting arguement for the vegan/ eating meat discussion. Barbara Kingsolver discusses her decision to continue eating responsibly grown and harvested meat in Chapter 14 of her book Animal, Vegetable, Mineral. In this she discusses the comparison of these two styles of living on the environment - a very compelling argument for someone like myself who enjoys meat (and tries to buy organic, local and humanely treated at that). Regardless, it is a very interesting read that might help you in your argumment. Perhaps being vegan isn't as environmentally friendly as everyone keeps saying it is.
    I apologize about the long post, again, I waited to comment until I had read the full content of your blog. Keep up the inspiring work and enjoy your trip!

  37. Great post, Bea!
    I spent years looking for my "style," and just discovered what I love best last year - simple, classic looks that are business casual. I don't wear much jewelry and prefer to stick with simple pants & bright tops. This has helped me really pare down my wardrobe, and I've found that most clothing items can be work both for work and for weekend relaxing.

    A few questions - how does your husband's and children's wardrobes compare? Also, you mentioned hiking in a previous post. Do you find that you don't need special clothing for hiking and other outdoor activities? Last, how do you wash your clothes to avoid shrinking/fading/etc?

    My husband and I recently purchased a motorcycle, and our new goal is to pare down our wardrobe so we can fit the basics in the saddle bags for road trips. Your blog is a big help as we continue to evaluate our wardrobe. Thanks for posting valuable information!

  38. I'm just about six months into my One Dress Protest, which is me wearing one dress every day for one year in protest of the sustainability of the fashion industry. So this post is super interesting for me to read as I'm a fan of your blog and often look to it for encouragement.

    I live in New Haven, CT so it gets quite cold. I started on January 3rd (middle of the winter) and will be returning to the same date still in my one dress. I kept out of my previous wardrobe a pair of tights, two sweaters, and a pair of thick leggings to get me through the winter (on top of a winter coat, gloves, scarf, hat for my walking/biking snowy commute to work each day). I have to say that while I didn't enjoy adding things to my one dress wardrobe for the winter, it was most enlightening to discover that I could make it through the winter with so little and be perfectly fine. I, of course, knew I could make it through the summer in just a dress (though the summer brings sweatier complications).

    I'm really enjoying my radically minimal wardrobe and don't anticipate returning to much more once the year is over.

  39. love that idea about the belt/necklace. thx also for the tip on the khakis, good point. another great post, ZWH!

  40. Very inspiring! I have many more clothes than you, but I am getting there! I have some summer things in mind to give away, but decided to give them one last hurrah and do it at the end of summer. My proudest creative outfit is putting a casual shirt and a belt over my wedding dress, making it look like just a white peasant skirt! Obviously this is only possible as I had a simple dress to begin with (certainly not a ball gown), but I'll be darned if I'm going to let my dress sit in my closet for the rest of my life! Hurrah for repurposing!

  41. Kirsten6/28/2011

    Excellent guidelines... thanks Bea.

    Thought of you yesterday when I saw this:

    A zero-waste grocery store in Austin! Wish someone would do this in the Bay Area!

  42. Anonymous6/28/2011

    I severely pared-down my wardrobe a few years back. I still had items of clothing from college (20 years old) that I kept because I didn't want to be wasteful. However, three children later (and the subsequent weight changes), I had accumulated too many items, and I'd loose track of what I had. Plus, I had items in bins for out of season, and eventually I had clothing-creep, even though I've never really been attached to clothing.
    Allowing myself to reframe the idea of "not being wasteful" into "allowing others to benefit from the clothes" was the kickstart I needed into dramatically paring down. Every visit to Goodwill and the Salvation Army buoyed my spirits.
    I've since lost some more weight and after finding this blog, I've been editing the wardrobe again. Interestingly, I realized most of my clothing has been either items passed over from my sister, or gifts, rather than my own purchases....
    One of my challenges is finding the essentials for the Midwest, with temperatures between -15 to 105 degrees. But I'm working on that. This list.
    My recommendation for everyone else? Know your measurements. I always knew I was long-waisted, but it was only last year I realized that technically, I should only buy items for my top marked "Tall." My legs are average, but I would have saved so much with money and frustration of poor fit if I realized just how different my own needs were. Now, I don't even waste the time or money, and I have considered even shopping in the men's section when I eventually need to find a blouse. Also, I _finally_ have a one piece swim suit that doesn't hurt my shoulders. :)

  43. Anonymous6/28/2011

    *Sorry. This list has helped me get thinking as I edit.

  44. Anonymous6/28/2011

    Oh, I really like framing decisions as "allowing others to benefit from the clothes". I am having the same thought shift regarding other areas where we're in search of minimalism. Food staples for example that we no longer want. Donate/give away, instead of trashing. Much lighter feeling.
    Well said, JulieB!

  45. Inspiring post as always. Thanks Bea.

    My key to simple wardrobe is cutting down to few basic colors.99% of my clothes are black, grey and blue, no paterns just some stripes and lot's of scarves in different colors, fabric and texture.It is very easy since everything is matching everything else.
    Also instead of buying winter clothes I just layer my fall/spring t-shirts/shirts and cardigans and I invested in good quality warm coat.

    I just need to find a way to depart with some of my too many shirts and t-shirts.
    I have a long way to go but reading this blog makes it a lot easer.

    EcoCatLady- the trick for the winter is silk underwear:

  46. I started a minimalist fashion project last year to really take a hard look at what I need. Project 333 allows 33 items for 3 months including all clothing, accessories, jewelry and shoes. What surprised me the most is how much easier my mornings are. I am starting the 4th phase and continue to pare down. I have yet to use all 33 items in any 3 months. It's amazing how little we need and how using less makes life so much easier.

  47. when Mr Paula moved in, the ratio was 1:3 (I used 3 parts of the closet, he only 1). Over time I reduced my wardrobe so we hit the 1:1 ratio this summer.
    Now he is shocked since we are almost equal and he used to be Mr Minimalist. :-)

  48. Anonymous6/30/2011

    two comments:
    1) what about specialized clothing (i.e. for skiing)?
    2) Going to France for a few months puts you in the upper class of this country. This further reinforces for me that your lifestyle is much easier for those well off, but you seem to be loathe to admit that.

  49. Anonymous6/30/2011

    Anonymous: that's an unfair characterization to say an annual trip to France must mean you're upper class. Lots of people make significant sacrifices in order to travel, particularly when going to see family! A smart family with working parents could easily save and allocate the funds. Clearly THIS family is smart.

  50. Natalie6/30/2011

    "Going to France for a few months puts you in the upper class of this country."
    I don't agree with that, maybe because it is similar to what I do and I am no upper class. The main expense is to pay for the airline ticket and by leaving end May/early June, the price is very attractive. Then, once there, you stay at family and friends' houses - they all insist that you stop by at least a few days to say hello, and you can continue to buy and cook your food the same way you do at home. And if you have your own business, as long as you have your laptop and an internet connection you can work from there as well.

  51. Anonymous6/30/2011

    My husband and I have been to Europe four times in the last 10 years and the last trip we took our daughter. We are planning a trip next year as well. My husband and I together make the low to mid 5 figures, hardly upper class. It is about choice. We chose to buy a small older house in an older neighborhood. We keep the house cold in the winter (55 at night and 63 during the day)and do not use air conditioning in the summer. We keep lights off when not in a room. We don't eat out much. We don't buy stuff new and rarely name-brand anything. We drive older paid for cars and choose activies that are free or cheap. We don't go see movies in theatres much. We do have season tickets to the symphony, but they are only $65 apiece and we sit in the back row. We choose to travel instead of spend. You will notice in her blog that Bea limits her spending so she can see her family every year and I applaud her! Andrea

  52. I live in So Cal and know many who live here who go "home" once a year. For many "home" is Asia. And these people are very hard working middle class. At lunch today a co-worker mentioned that most of her earnings go for annual trips back to India for her and her family. I applaud Bea too for her courage to lead the way toward simpler, more minimalist living such as I knew in my youth in the 1940s to mid 1960s.

  53. Kiyomi6/30/2011

    To Anonymous With Two Comments - waste issue has nothing to do with one's financial status. It is a far more important issue that affects all of us rich and poor.

    What scares me most is that we managed to do all this damage in one single generation. I reflect on how my mother shopped and managed the household; not much waste was generated then. If I tell my kids the way she shopped, they think I am telling a fairy tale. The way we shop and the way we dispose now.... a huge change! We created 5 (or 6 or 7?) Plastic Gyres in just one generation! Keep going and I hate to think what the Earth will look like in the next 50 years. And home is where it all starts.

  54. Anonymous7/01/2011

    About zero waste being only for the upper class, I don't agree. Many parts of zero waste are more expensive (cheese and meat at deli counter, many bulk groceries) but they are balanced out by less expensive aspects of zero waste. For example, shopping twice a year at thrift stores is definitely less expensive than monthly shopping sprees at a mall. Also, skipping fast food and bottled beverages is less expensive than bringing your own klean kanteen and waste free lunch from home. I also remember on this blog somewhere that Bea said she started zero waste when she and her husband did not have a stable income for two years.

  55. Thanks so much for this detailed post, it was exactly what I needed to help me look at my wardrobe realistically, even though I live in extreme Northern California on a ranch. Four distinct seasons and a very different lifestyle, but your care in considering the use for each article spoke across those differences and were a great help. Recently visited a relative with 25 pairs of jeans (yes, I counted them) hanging neatly on hangers in a vacuous closet. Above them were 48 sleeveless tops, again neatly hung. It went on and on. All in So Cal where the temperature varies little. All I could think was "this must take a LOT of time."

  56. Anonymous7/02/2011

    It is not the going to France part, it is the "for a few months" art. People who are average wage earners cannot take off "a few months" unless they are teachers.

  57. Anonymous7/02/2011

    First, a "couple" of months, not a "few", second, read the post. There's a lot happening in her family, don't assume this time frame is typical. Maybe is, maybe not.
    Time [work/not work] frame has nothing to do with income, has to do with the nature of the work one does, e.g., teaching, contract work, saving up annual leave, so forth.
    Still unfair mischaracterization, and, honestly, irrelevant to the discussion.

  58. Anonymous7/02/2011

    THANK YOU BEA, for providing hope, and a path.
    I am 46 and was just diagnosed as ADD. I have been following you posts for a while and was drawn to the photos, the simplicity of it all. My brain is so cluttered already,so I am trying to eliminated the visual clutter. Your kitchen photos are my favorite, because this is the place where the most damage is done as for as physical pollution and visual pollution. I have been bulk food shopping, and using jars. Opening my cupboards now is calming as compared to having my mind assaulted by so many labels. Your style reminds me of the shaker style, which has always been my favorite.
    Please continue to share with us your discoveries. I know I appreciate it!

  59. MTNgirl7/03/2011

    Back on top, Bea asks what are our keys to a simple wardrobe. I have a lot more clothes than Bea, but a lot less than I had last year. I have chosen black for my base color. I do wear khakis just because I like them. I have two pairs in a dressier trouser style for work and wear them with a cardigan or blazer in the winter. I have four dresses and 7 skirts. WAY TOO MANY! I love and wear all my skirts. There is a dress I could get rid of, but I wear it to weddings, infrequent though they are. Besides my skirts and dresses, I have simplified by winter and summer bottoms to 7 each season, some of which I can wear for both and 14 tops for each season (some trans-seasonal). I have 12 sweaters and cardigans and I wear them constantly all winter. I think I will continue to pare down my wardrobe by attrition and only replace items that are essential or staples. I found a black wool blend cardigan at Goodwill this winter that I have worn constantly winter, spring and summer! That is definately a wardrobe staple! I am considering donating my white cardigan because I no longer wear it!

    Thank you, Bea for your inspiration!

  60. Chevanne7/03/2011

    This was a really helpful post because I think we are all reluctant to have less when it comes to clothes. Minimalism can stil be fashionable. My key to continuously simplifying my wardrobe (still a long way to go) is to admit to myself that I end up wearing the same things over and over again. There are about ten shirts that I wear every summer, all summer and about ten long sleeve tees I wear all winter. Why not get rid of everything else? I have clothes that I absolutely love and the key now is to really dig down and get rid of all those "just in case" pieces. Those stylish, flashy, "notice me" pieces that I never really get around to wearing or despite my confidence at the register, am too chicken to really go for. I have a black short sleeve shirt with an exposing slit in the back that I've worn ONCE. I have a bright red halter with the tag still on. I think gradual purging of the closet is a big help. Zero Waste is a lifestyle and in order for it to stick, you have to keep making a repetitive commitment to change.

  61. For work I now mix and match two outfits all in black. I really have reduced my wardrobe. I only have 2 pairs of jeans and rarely add to my clothes. I am working with the one in one out rule. There is a woman who has a blog about minimalism that only has 10 clothing items not including intimates. That is really drastic. It is true that we only wear about 10% of our wardrobe 90% of the time.
    Keep up the great posts!

  62. @MTNgirl, I think if you *wear* all seven skirts, then you're totally justified in keeping them. I think it's about whether stuff actually gets used that's important.

    A friend of mine shared that every New Years she takes a pack of those colored garage sale stickers and puts them on everything in her freezer/fridge/pantry, and at the next New Year, anything that has that sticker gets tossed. I was going to do the same thing with my clothes: put a sticker on the front and then remove it only if I wore the item, and at the end of the year, anything with a sticker remaining would automatically get donated. But then I got pregnant, which kind of invalidated the experiment. I am still on a major purge spree (nesting!) and just got rid of several large bags of clothes that I know even once I fit back into them won't be used. I am eager to have this baby and slowly get rid of all my maternity clothes, too and see if I can really get down to essentials. I am mostly a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl who occasionally gets delusions of fashion, and that's when I end up buying something that's cute but that I really am unlikely to get good wear out of.

    A side issue for me is the idea that we tend to spend a lot of money on special occasion clothes (ex: a dress and shoes for a wedding), and then cheap out on staples that we wear all the time(jeans, t-shirts, underwear.) This makes so little sense. My goal as I start to rebuild my wardrobe post-partum is to spend more on quality items that I *love* and know I will wear for a long time (not turning up my nose at a good deal when I find one, of course!)

  63. Here's the thing about consignment shopping: it takes forever. It's like dating. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.

    So when you said in an earlier post that you only go shopping once a year (twice?), I have to assume you mean over a period of days or weeks.

    I have lost my habitual clothing-store-grazing behavior, and that has been a wonderful change. Now that I am trying to deal with summer wardrobe replenishment (after donating or selling about 50% of my wardrobe), I am OVER it.

    Maybe I should just call it good with 5 shirts and two shorts and three skirts and two dresses and...wait, maybe I AM done!

  64. Minnesota gal7/06/2011

    I agree with EcoCatLady, I live in Minnesota, more like Minne"snow"ta, with temps ranging from 30 below wind chills to 102 the other day. I am a professional but also am very outdoorsy and partake in a lot of sports. I have tried to keep my sports equipment to a minimum (own my bikes but rent kayaks, downhill skiis, snowshoes, etc). But I end up wearing so many thick heavy clothes the majority of the year that I need to have a variety. I would like to pare it down, now that I'm moving to Arizona, maybe I can get rid of all the winter stuff! It'll be an intersting experiment for me.

  65. Hi Bea.

    I know you can receive some criticism for your zero-waste philosophy, but I for think it's fantastic and such an inspiration! My grandma clipped your article in sunset out for me and I haven't been the same since reading it. I have since purged my unneeded possessions (my family thinks I crazy, but whatever) and given serious thought to furthering my already persistent journey in eco-friendliness. It feels like having only what I need has been giving me more of a push to live my happiest life, and I thank you for that :)

  66. Avec le temps, avec l'âge, avec la philosophie de la vie qui change, avec l'envie d'être et non d'avoir... ma valise est de plus en plus petite et légère et elle est encore trop pleine!!! J'aime beaucoup ce blog... bonnes vacances en Provence, c'est un peu mon pays!

  67. Anonymous7/18/2011

    I was surprised at the amount of clothing listed here. When I compare it to what I wear, it seems huge (thee outfits per season plus something dressy is really all I ever wear). However, when I compare it to the amount of clothing I have lying around unused (or in some cases simply falling apart), what you listed is tiny. That's kind of the point I suppose. You've got me thinking...thanks.

  68. Anonymous7/21/2011

    Hi Bea,
    I just returned from a two week trip to Europe. Prior to leaving, I read this post and packed a simple carry-on bag with many of the items listed. I had everything I needed for both hot beach days and chilly coastal walks. I wore every item several times, but had endless outfits. Thank you for the great post!

  69. Anonymous7/25/2011

    I love your blog and have been sharing it with a co-worker and we are both working on clearin clutter from our lives at this time. Thanks for the inspiration.

    I love your All-Purpose Purse. I carry my netbook with me along with my camera most of the time and would love to find an all-purpose purse. Could you tell me where you bought your purse and/or the brand also the deminsions? It looks small from the photo so just wondering about the deminsions.

  70. I bought this leather purse for $2 at a thrift shop. I do not have a ruler in inches in France, but it measures about 11"x9". Just big enough to fit my (small) laptop.

  71. Anonymous8/06/2011

    Thank you so much. I am on the lookout for the perfect All-Purpose purse now :-)

  72. I travel with on 21" carry-on. In it I place two pairs of black Travelers slacks, 2 dressy tops, 5 black t-shirts, one dressy jacket or huipil, one pair of presentable shoes, one pair of shower shoes, which can double as flip flops, underwear for 7 days, small down travel blanket (which doubles as an extra pillow). Travel size deodorant, travel size toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, blush, lipstick, sunscreen, moisturizer, tweezers, hairpins. In my backpack: two cameras, several lenses, my iPad, iPhone, chargers, spare batteries, extra memory cards, collapsible water bottle. That's about it. I never have to check bagage. I no longer have to carry books because they are on my iPad and iPhone. When in doubt I eliminate one dressy top and 1or 2 t-shirts. I recently purchased a Scottevest jacket which means that I've probably doubledd the amount I can carry on, but I haven't tried it out for travel yet.

  73. I saw this when you initially posted it in July, and I've kept coming back to it almost on a monthly basis for inspiration and guidance as I slowly attempt to pair down my wardrobe. I've made a lot of progress, but I find something new here each time. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and encouraging others. Your whole lifestyle is something to strive for, and if wen all took baby steps to get there, think how happy the planet would be, not to mention the people living on it.

  74. My husband has the ultimate minimalist wardrobe :) We got shirts printed with the days of the week on them so that he would at least rotate what he was wearing! So, he has 7 day of the week shirts, and 2 pairs of pants, 2 shorts, and a hoodie, and two jackets, also church clothes. People always comment on his shirts, but it's fun and at least he isn't wearing the same shirt three days in a row now (at least usually...:)) I'm not quite there, but plan on unloading a bunch of my clothes on my sister when she comes to visit next month.

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  76. Anonymous2/06/2013

    This post is great! It has really inspired me to pare down on my wardrobe. My only problem is that I tend to keep items for that "just in case something happens" reason. I want to donate some of my dress shirts, but I am afraid that there will come a time that I will need those items again, so I hold off on the donation pile. My wardrobe is mostly t-shirts and jeans, which doesn't have much fashion sense, but they're easy to let go of. What should I do to get rid of the clothes that I use for seldom-special-occasions?